Penny Oleksiak's 100m win at Canadian trials a step in right direction
18-year-old Toronto native knows she can be faster and is motivated to improve
Penny Oleksiak is still trying to find her Olympic form.
She took a step forward in the right direction at the 2018 Canadian Swimming Trials on Thursday with a gold medal in the women's 100-metre freestyle race, even if she remains somewhat dissatisfied with her time of 54.75.
"I think I was a bit faster than that even when I was super out of shape," she said. "I don't think my result really shows how hard I have been training. I'm not super happy with the race, but I made the team and that is all I can ask for." (CBC Sports will have complete coverage of the Pan Pacific Championships which run from Aug. 9-13.)
An 18-year-old Toronto native, Oleksiak became the face of the Canadian swimming scene at the 2016 Summer Games in Rio when she became the nation's youngest Olympic champion by winning gold in the 100 freestyle, while adding a silver in the 100 butterfly and two relay bronzes.
She took some time to herself after her sudden fame and didn't come back quite the way she wanted to at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, where she helped Canada to three relay silvers, but didn't shine in her individual events — coming in fourth in the 50 and 100 butterfly, fifth in the 100 freestyle and seventh in the 200 free.
On Thursday at the Trials, where the winner of each event gains an automatic berth into next month's Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo, Oleksiak's time was well shy of her Canadian record of 52.70.
As part of her attempts to return to form after taking some time to herself, Oleksiak has been spending time training in Florida.
"I think I have been training harder than what is showing right now, so I am just excited to see what I can do at Pan-Pacs," she said. "I have learned a lot over the summer, and how to take care of myself more as a professional athlete.
"I just did stuff that was going to make me happy for a year instead of really focusing on pushing myself for swimming. I let everything calm down a bit and it helped me a lot and I am excited to ramp it up going into Tokyo.
"I am more motivated than ever to get better right now."
Oleksiak had already qualified for the Pan Pacifics with a third-place finish in the 200 freestyle on Wednesday that also earned her a place on that relay team. She plans on competing in up to two more events at Trials.
Earning berths on the women's 100 freestyle relay team for Japan were Alexia Zevnik, Kyla Leibel and Maggie MacNeil.
Meanwhile, the men's 100 freestyle event was captured with a time of 49.14 by Calgary native Yuri Kisil, who now trains out of Vancouver.
'I'm happy about that'
"It's great to be on the team, that was the main goal coming in," he said. "I'm happy about that, but probably everything could have been better. I need to nail down my race technique and race strategy."
Making the relay team out of the same event were Markus Thormeyer, Ruslan Gaziev and Owen Daly.
Other winners on Day 2 of the five-day event included world-record holder Kylie Masse cruising to a win in the women's 100 backstroke. Thormeyer captured the men's 100 backstroke, Mabel Zavaros won the women's 200 butterfly and Mack Darragh won the same event for the men. Peter Brothers came first in the men's 1,500 freestyle.
The Pan Pacific Para Swimming Championships also take place next month in Cairns, Australia, although the qualification process isn't the same "win and you are in."
In Para swimming on Thursday, Philippe Vachon and Aurelie Rivard 100m free, and Nicolas Turbide and Angela Marina (100 backstroke) won the multi-class races. Meanwhile, Saskatoon's Shelby Newkirk set a new world record for her S7 classification in the women's backstroke.